Man who punched baby has sentence extended

DPP sought longer jail term for Larry Connors (21) in ‘truly horrific’ child cruelty case

A man who punched and threw a 10-month-old baby in what was described as a "truly horrific" case of child cruelty has had his three-year sentence increased to the maximum of seven years following a successful appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The court heard the child was taken to the Midwestern Regional Hospital in Limerick with injuries that included fractures to his right and left arms, a dislocated right elbow, multiple bruising to his body, a burn mark to his right calf and bleeding to his brain.

A medical report stated that the injuries were severe and significant and would have caused extreme pain at the time they occurred.

In February 2012, Larry Connors (21) was jailed for three years by Judge Carroll Moran at Ennis Circuit Criminal Court having pleaded guilty to child cruelty on dates between December 15th, 2010, and January 3rd, 2011.

Judge Moran said that Connors, with a last address at Shannon, Co Clare, could be named but nothing could be reported that would identify the mother or child. Connors is not the father of the child.

The mother of the child described how Connors slapped, pinched, punched and threw her baby around the apartment where she lived, stating that Connors abused her child for three weeks and there was nothing she could do about it.

The DPP had appealed against the sentence imposed by Judge Moran on the grounds that it was too lenient.

Counsel for the DPP, Mr Shane Costelloe BL, today told the Court of Criminal Appeal that Judge Moran expressly stated he would have imposed a sentence near the maximum of seven years had a plea of guilty not been entered.

Counsel told the court that Connors had initially pleaded not guilty to the offence and the matter went to trial, where the mother of the baby underwent cross-examination and the chief medical witness was also called.

Mr Justice Nial Fennelly, presiding at the Court of Criminal Appeal, said this was a "truly horrific case".

He said the appeal court was satisfied the DPP had met the standard of demonstrating the sentence imposed was a “substantial departure from the norm” of the range of sentences available.

Mr Justice Fennelly said that in his sentencing remarks the trial judge had identified Connors' lack of previous convictions, his dysfunctional background and his plea of guilty.

He said the court noted that nothing could take away from Connors’ personal, legal and moral responsibility for what had occurred and while his dysfunctional background may create an element of sympathy, it did not explain the offending.

He said the court was satisfied on the facts of the case that the sentence was unduly lenient.

In imposing sentence, Mr Justice Fennelly said the plea of guilty came after events where the mother of the child already had given evidence, and Connors had displayed an almost total lack of cooperation with the garda investigation.

He said Connors went so far as to tell gardaí that the mother of the child “better hope I get a life sentence for this”, which was clearly meant to be interpreted as a threat.

As the seriousness of the case placed it near the top of the scale of offending and the mitigating factors were slight, Mr Justice Fennelly said the court would impose a sentence of seven years but would suspend the final two years to provide some hope to the respondent.

Mr Costelloe said he was happy to be able to tell the court that the child was now doing rather well, although he requires speech therapy because of a tear injury to his mouth.